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The Pandemic Of Anorexia In Children And Adolescents

The Pandemic of Anorexia in Children and Adolescents

Anorexia in children, in recent years, has been on the rise but since Covid it has exploded. Learning the signs of an eating disorder is a challenge for any parent or caregiver which is why these issues are often hidden and unknown until it becomes a serious issue that requires urgent care. This article discusses the pandemic of Anorexia in children and adolescents.  The Essential Guide to Anorexia is available from Need2Know Books RRP £9.99.

Covid and Eating Disorders in Children

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated eating disorders and simultaneously has highlighted the urgent need to raise awareness of these disorders. While the pandemic has caused mental health issues globally, it seems to have had particularly detrimental effects on children and adults who are at risk of eating disorders.

Research confirms that eating disorders increased during the COVID-19 pandemic by 15·3% in 2020, compared with previous years. This increase rose steadily from March 2020 and continued to increase throughout the year. The rise occurred solely in women and girls and was observed in adolescents primarily suffering from anorexia nervosa.

The increase of eating disorders particularly Anorexia has been worrying for many healthcare providers and researchers. Katzman who has written about Covid 19, eating disorders and adolescents said: “Unfortunately, it took a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic to put the spotlight on eating disorders”, and “it is a wake-up call for making eating disorders a priority”.

The Pandemic and Eating Disorders

At an Eating Disorders Conference in June 2021 first-hand accounts of the problems faced by severely ill patients during the pandemic, were shared. The closure or restriction of in-patient services played a major factor that resulted in eating disorders spiralling out of control for many.

Children told stories that “when the pandemic started, they decided to eat healthier and begin exercising more,” Helen Rome, head of adolescent medicine at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA said “That positive start is the prelude to a tragic turn, however…then an adult will pick up the story and say, ‘The next thing we knew, she’d lost 10 kg’,” said Rome.

Other kids told their stories and said they faced difficulty having a life without a schedule which encouraged them to eat when they were stressed or bored until suddenly their weight got out of control and ballooned.

New research presented at the conference – which was attended by researchers, clinicians, and experts with lived experience from 56 countries – showed why previously healthy adolescents succumbed to negative emotions and damaging behaviour during the pandemic.

In normal times, more than half of eating disorders begin during a particular time window in adolescence when peer-to-peer social comparison is an essential part of development of body image, self-esteem, and social awareness.

Angela Favaro, head of the Department of Neuroscience at the Padova Neuroscience Centre in Italy said “Social avoidance” as well as inflexible thinking and negative emotions are key predictors in early onset eating disorders. Lockdowns and school closures have enforced social avoidance, leaving children “exposed to an absence of peer-to-peer social comparison at a crucial time in their development.”

Lessons Learned, Moving Forward

Although the first year and a half of the Pandemic had its challenges for those suffering with Anorexia and other eating disorders, lessons have had to be learned. One of those lessons was having treatment available in new ways. Closing down clinics due to lockdown orders would have caused irrevocable damage, so online consultations had to be offered.

In the past, online treatment was rare, but this has become a valuable option that has been embraced due to necessity by clinics and doctors as well as patients.

The reaction to online consultation in place of face-to-face has been mixed. Studies show that some patients enjoy being in the comfort of their homes talking to their doctor online. While others prefer face-to-face meetings.

Overall going online has been a positive experience. Having this option served as a lifeline for many children and adolescents who needed urgent care at the time when the Pandemic was at its worst. Moving forward new strides are being made to incorporate virtual reality with treatments that will help patients get the right attention and treatment they deserve.

The Essential Guide to Anorexia expels the myths and stereotypes that exist about Anorexia and helps you to understand the true meaning of this mental illness that affects children and adults from all genders, races, and ethnic backgrounds. For further information visit Need2Know Books.

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